A rush of electrified models wearing the Opel lightning flash have burst onto the scene in recent months. But the company has both a longer and more varied electric vehicle heritage that many would give it credit for.
Opel’s first electrified model debuted in 1968. The Kadett B Stir-Lec I study was powered by a range-extending powertrain (the concept was revisited later with the short-lived 2011-2015 Opel/Ampera). Fourteen lead-acid batteries were charged via its rear-mounted Stirling combustion engine, and the batteries then powered a small AC electric motor which drove the rear wheels. Top speed was 55mph.
Another concept car, the 1965 Experimental GT spawned the pretty and ‘mini-Corvette’ GT of 1968. Styled by Brissonneau & Lotz of France, it shared parts with the Kadett B and was sold in 1.0-litre 67hp and 1.9-litre 102hp versions. And, although it was combustion-engined, the GT would be a pivotal machine in Opel’s electric car fortunes.
The GT Elektro appeared in 1971 through connections with Georg von Opel, the grandson of the company’s founder. Commissioned by von Opel, the all-electric sports car was built in association with Bosch, Continental and Varta. Based on the production GT coupe, the Opel GT Elektro featured an enhanced aerodynamic package to help it slip through the air. A full set of wheel-covering spats, as well as larger front and rear spoilers, helped the svelte single-seater achieve a 27-mile range when driven at a constant speed of 62mph. Largely assembled by hand by Bosch engineer Ernst Rapp, and loaded with a 120hp Bosch twin-coupled motor powertrain, a 590kg Varta nickel-cadmium battery pack made up almost a third of the GT Elektro’s 1,700kg weight. A set of low-rolling resistance tyres was sourced from Continental.
Like the Kadett B Stir-Lec, the 116mph electric coupe was an experimental concept, but it was also a standard setter in its own right. Von Opel set six electric vehicle world records with the slippery sportster at the Hockenheim racing circuit, and although further development was mooted, the GT Elektro project died when von Opel sadly perished in a car accident the very same year the trailblazing coupe scorched into the record books.
Arguably, the GT and GT Elektro’s spirit has been revived to inspire more contemporary Opel concepts. The very striking front mid-engined and rear-wheel drive GT Concept from 2016 was a modern update of the original GT, albeit powered by a 145hp, 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine. The 2018 GT X Experimental held much more appeal to users-readers of Drive-My, and took the shape of a SUV with a 50kWh lithium-ion battery powertrain capable of inductive charging. Previewing Opel’s new design language, the GT X Experimental represented a further step in the company’s PACE! plan which promises an electrified version of each of its models by 2024.